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August 24, 2014


This copy of a TV report from WNYT 13 had a fascinating doublespeak title:

Working to improve Albany's infrastructure after flooding

Updated: 08/06/2014 6:36 PM
Created: 08/06/2014 12:00 PM
By: WNYT Staff

ALBANY - Mayor Kathy Sheehan released a statement on Wednesday saying Tuesday's storm put an unprecedented strain on infrastructure, but it's not the first time.

That raises the question - can anything be done to improve the infrastructure?

Residents are still cleaning up after the storm here on Elberon place in Albany -- one of the hardest hit areas. Many of them aren't blaming Mother Nature. Instead, they're pointing to Albany’s sewer system as part of the problem.

“We had between two and two and a half inches of rain in less than an hour and that is just unprecedented and it really just overwhelmed everything and it was a challenge,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan.

The powerful storm caused flash flooding that overwhelmed the city's drain system, turning Elberon Place into a lake -- sending water into basements. Cars parked outside were nearly submerged -- some motorists tried to drive through it and pedestrians waded through it -- the water waist deep. Elberon place was not the only trouble spot.

“It was everywhere. It was a whole lot of flooding,” said Sheehan. “We had streets flood that had never flooded before.”

Manhole covers are normally very heavy. However, it was no match to the force of the rushing water in the drainage system -- causing the cover to bounce. Albany Water Department Commissioner Joe Coffey says it's a century old infrastructure. However, that's not the reason why it backed up.

“When you get a hundred year storm event when you had three inches of rain in 45 minutes, there's no way our system, whether it was five years old or 105 years old could handle that quantity of water,” he explained.

Coffey says modern drains are designed to withstand only a 10 year storm event. The capacity of the older pipes is unknown. Coffey says they're doing a number of upgrades and changes to make sure a 100 year storm like the one yesterday, does not overwhelm the system.

“We'll try to do more green infrastructure, that's rain gardens and bio swells, things of that nature where the water never gets into the pipes,” he said.